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  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 8:17am

English Schools Foundation

The English Schools Foundation (ESF) operates five secondary schools, nine primary schools and a school for students with special educational needs across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. It is the largest international educational foundation in Asia. 


'Educational apartheid' hitting expats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 March, 2013, 10:57am

I refer to Pierce Lam's letter ("ESF admission policy smacks of segregation", February 19).

I agree with Mr Lam's argument about segregation in Hong Kong's education system, and would even go so far as saying that this city is currently plagued by an "educational apartheid".

I share his view that the practice of offering two segregated systems of subsidised English-medium education - one for Chinese and the other for non-Chinese - is long out of date and no longer relevant in post-colonial Hong Kong.

I wish to add that, instead, we should have a "one size fits all" subsidised education system - one that accommodates everyone, whether it be local Chinese, mainland Chinese, Westerners, ethnic minorities or other foreign expatriates.

Mr Lam insists that we must respect our local schools, and further states that in Asian countries like Japan, expatriates who want public education for their children have to send them to local schools.

He even boasts about Hong Kong's local schools supposedly being "superior" to schools in Japan and in most of our expatriates' home countries.

I would like to ask Mr Lam one question. If our local schools really are so superior to schools in other places, why are we seeing so few non-Chinese members of our society sending their children to these schools?

One answer to that I can give is that local schools are reluctant to take on non-Chinese or non-Cantonese speaking children.

On the one hand, Mr Lam criticises the English Schools Foundation for promoting educational segregation, but on the other hand, he fails to acknowledge the local schools' contribution to this dilemma. So, because of this, the choice given to the city's expatriates is loud and clear: extortionate international schools, the ESF, or leave Hong Kong.

As many of us are aware, due to limited places at international and ESF schools, many expats are left with only the third choice.

As your correspondent correctly points out, we hear about expats in other cities in the region sending their children to local schools with seemingly little trouble.

I'm sure that this is another reason why many foreigners are leaving Hong Kong, as they search elsewhere in the region for better schooling opportunities for their children.

If this city is supposedly Asia's world city, why is our "superior" education system failing to adopt a similar approach to those of other parts of the world?

Andrew Nunn, Tai Po


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pslhk aka Pierce Lam is a mean spirited, ignorant, spiteful racist and I am surprised that the SCMP gives his hate mail a platform. He distorts facts, misleads and above all refuses to acknowledge plain facts. Sadly, he is not an uncommon phenomenon in Hong Kong where some people abuse their positions to take a vengeful swipe at foreigners for real or, (more commonly) imagined, slights of the colonial era. This racial prejudice is largely born of traditional Chinese cultural arrogance **** xenophobia and has little or nothing to do with the truth. After all, when did facts or the truth ever get in the way of a bigot's opinion?
Asia has its Nazis as well.
The usual parade of ignorant drivel from "pslhk" who pretends not to be Pierce Lam.
It is a lie to suggest that ESF schools are populated by foreign students here for brief visits and sponging off the government. 70% of ESF students are permanent residents of Hong Kong. 44% of ESF students are ethnically Chinese, 21% are ethnically Caucasian. There is no educational apartheid in this city, and why a supposedly reputable newspaper continues to give a platform to Lam's racist ravings is beyond me. He is ignorant, offensive, factually incorrect and dishonest.
Is this free-form nonsense, or just nonsense?
Really, there is no need to answer.
Wouldn't it be fair if the government subsidies each and every pupil with the same amount of money, independent whether it is a public or private school ? All parents of pupils pay taxes, being it local people (how do you define local? A very high percentage of HK residents are actually from the Mainland - are they "local" or a different kind of expats? ) or expats (non-Chinese) who work in HK and should all get the same subsidy for their children's education. It would only be fair to distribute the government's savings to the private/international/ESF schools for not having to spend funds for provide schooling for those students.
As to the quality of the public and non-public schools I wish to remind that within many of the international schools the majority of students come from the wealthy local community and that those schools are actually NOT dominated by "expats" e.g. GSIS, Singapore International, Chinese International and the list goes on.
And why do even the highly paid top officers of our government departments incl. the Education Bureau send their children to international schools and not to public schools ?
BMR, WhyMak, PSLHK: You point out all the virtues of local Hong Education and how amazing it is. That HK parents would prefer to send their kids to a local school. Local schools do better globally when their pupils go to foreign countries. That is all great and to a great extent I agree with you. But you also best remember that these super popular and amazing are 100% funded by the Hong Kong government. Amazing entitlement and allot tax money is spent educating these high achievers.
But you complain about ESF which receives a miniscule amount of money per child from the government and mainly parents have to pay for their child’s education. And as you say they receive a worse education than if they went to a local school.
Why are you so upset that the government gives foreign children a miniscule amount of funding? Local Chinese students receive a massive amount of funding. It saves the HK government billions by having Children go to these so called inferior schools. You complaints make absolutely no sense.
Everything you say makes the status queo look extremely advantageous to local HK families. 1005 funded and better education.
Terrible to have to say this, but really it comes down to racism and money. Our government's failure to keep proper records of the demographics of Hong Kong leaves us all in the position of arguing.
Put simply, if you are an expatriate and classify yourself as such then you have in all likelihood moved to Hong Kong to improve your income/career prospects. In such cases you should foot the bill, or the company that employs you at the expense of local talent, if you desire a certain type of education experience that is not availabe in the society that you are moving to. Try going to France and saying as we are bringing a business to Paris that will benefit Parisians you should provide us with heavily subsided schools for our children and ones that teach in a style that we like? This idea of heavily subsidizing foreign education is a major colonial hangover.
On the other hand if you classify yourself as immigrants, are willing to adapt to the local society, see this as your permanent home (live, marry, die) then Hong Kong should try to help your children master Chinese.
Expatriates, and I have to listen to them, constantly confide that the local eduaction system is rubbish - this is pure racism and then go on to complain that the Governent doesn't do enough to give their little Johnny a good education, they says its just too expensive - money.
The problem is we don't know how many immigrants we have who don't have Chinese as their first language.
Lam's racist comments seem to get repeat publication in this rag. The writer's response fails to add that ESF parents then have to pay tax on the funds they use to pay for ESF education - does HK Government really need that money ? The bumbling oaf Financial Secretary on a mere 368k a month, mansion, free car plus driver and first class airfares deems himself middle class, showing his completely IDNGAF aloof and incompetent attitude.
read this carefully - free education at primary level for ALL children irrespective of race, ethnic origin, religion etc.
Blinded by prejudice
IRDHK and the likes fail to realise
that ESF’s performance is irrelevant in public funding consideration
If ESF is qualified for subsidies, why not other English speaking international schools?
that being expatriates is neither a qualification nor an entitlement for special treatment
that there should be no public subsidies for ESF schools until they comply with
a) HKBoR (Art 1) and unicef CRC (Art 2) prohibition against linguistic discrimination, and
b) the Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities requiring minorities to integrate with local community
thru the acquisition of the state language
ESF’s “international” curricula and exams are easier than those of local schools
Thus opening back door admission to competitive universities local and overseas
HK’s financial surplus and reserves are reasons that we should have the confidence
to do what’s right – to abolish and not to accommodate
the immoral colonial vices
of educational apartheid and double standard
"If our local schools really are so superior to schools in other places, why are we seeing so few non-Chinese members of our society sending their children to these schools?"
This is a dumb question. Has it ever occurred to you that non-Chinese members are afraid that their children may show up as inferior performers, which might hurt their chances in gaining admission to a great university?
Facts speak for themselves. Hong Kong 15-year olds are ranked top three in the world in PISA’s reading comprehension, mathematics and science year and year. Could non-Chinese parents have the same bragging rights for their home country?
Though children of Chinese immigrants are usually handicapped by their English language skills in the US, they have little problems learning every subject in English. Asian students taking advanced college placement tests in the US are 3.7 times whites, biology 7.5, Advanced Calculus 8.1, Chemistry 8.5, Physics, 7.4. The gap is even greater than that between whites and other minorities.
Chinese children are not Martians. They have just a little more discipline and intestinal fortitude. Stop bellyaching and just send your children to local schools to learn some math, science and Chinese. Good local schools don't discriminate against expats. But the competition is fierce. Be honest, are your children up to it?
Now a fair disclosure. I was matriculated from SJC more than 5 decades ago.
Perhaps Lam can also have a go at a fellow Chinese person's opinion and query why local senior Government officials chose to send their kids to ESF ......
Speech by Secretary Education Manpower South Island School Awards Ceremony
Following is a speech by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Mrs **** Law, at the Awards Ceremony of South Island School today (May 3):
Good afternoon, Mr Shroff, Ms Wisker, Mr Evans, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Maybe I should start with a declaration of interests. As the Secretary for Education and Manpower, I naturally maintain a keen professional interest in all schools in Hong Kong. But I must confess that, as the mother of two of your alumni, I have always had special affection for South Island School. Randolph and Boniface have many happy memories of their school days here. Knowing that I will be with you today, they have asked me to convey their warm wishes to you all. In particular, Boni has asked me to pass on his regards to his friends who are present today........
For readers of this column, name calling is okay if it could be directly linked to words and actions. Hard hitting comments to effect sometimes can be both impolite and appropriate.
When I call someone a "hate-China moron," I can document the hate sentiments from his words. Moron is applied to a person highly deficient in reason and logic.
There is plenty of evidence that "racist" name calling in these pages is a Freudian projection, that is, those calling someone by this name is likely a racist or a bigot himself.
How do you find illogicalities in writings? I am afraid the racist name callers in this column don't have a clue.
Unfortunately in the Democracy religion, we have an entitlement for free speech for hate-China morons who bow wow "racist" at reason, logic and facts.
Hear, hear
the howlings,
expressing feelings so strong, and hatred so blatant
totally ad hominem
against evidence based arguments
which they know not how to respond intelligently
too rabid and too uneducated
What may I do about rabies dogs?
Pity? Not really.
Laugh ? A bid unkind
Fools like that help me understand differences
why the inquisition, why the conquisitors, why the Opium Wars
They care only about their interests
which if they perceive threatened, they’ll do what they can
I’m interested in reasons and discussions.
They're obssessed with selfish privileges.
I shouldn’t waste my time with these (what’re they?)
Henceforth in debates,
I'd treat them as what they deserve, non-existent.
These aren't my equals
These (what’re they?) won’t in any slightest way
diminish my enjoyment of a pleasant weekend
and my continued interest in writing my opinions
ah yes pslhk probably remembers what he wrote:
SCMP Nov 22, 2008 Colonial administration's departure raises question over the need for the ESF
"In terms of social contribution, expatriates are the modern-day equivalent of Chinese railroad builders in 19th century North America. They have come and stayed because Hong Kong is the best, if not the only, place for the use of their talents. We don't need expatriates as 21st century colonialists with anachronistic privileges.
Hong Kong cannot depend on the presence of expatriates to distinguish itself from other Chinese cities. We must equip our native children with an international education so that they can serve China's need for international talent. "
You have your beliefs about double standards and some messed up view of apartheid. You see politics and nationalistic principles and fail to realize that these are children going to these schools. Children should be supported and educated weather in English, Chinese or any other language. You are right in 1 area all kids should receive financial assistance whether in public, esf or private schools. education of children is the key. Not what type f school they attend. Every system has its advantages.
I love childdren. I have no problem with ESF schoolchildren, local or foreign, receiving a "pittance" of subvention from our 1.5 trillion public savings. At SJC a subsidized Catholic school decades ago, I had witnessed firsthand how HK children destitute by Western standards rose to become world class professionals.
What I object to is the supercilious attitude of expats whose mindset still belongs to the colonial past. Pierce Lam's remark on education apartheid is most appropriate.
New York City's elite schools, Stuyvesant High and Bronx Science High, with no admissions quota for minorities are a shining example of equal opportunities in education. Decades ago, there were only a handful of Chinese children in these schools. Today Asians are 72% of Suyvesant student body and Bronx Science, 63%.
And I am not talking about just training these little geniuses to be future Nobel Prize winners. Fair competition is the way to go. Let the children's learning abilities and talents find the right class in the right kind of HK schools. Yes, we should foot the bill for all of them.
Though Ivy League schools legacy admissions still discriminate against Asians, we can learn many things from the US, all irrational anti-US sentiments aside.
No children in HK should be victimized by silly ideological disputes. Readers "bmr" and "pslhk" are galled by some white folks' attitude. But can you blame them?
pslhk Feb 22nd 2013
bmr, thanks for the discussion
My reply will be brief because (a) I’ll have a meeting this morning (b) nothing requires urgent resolution.
Declaration of self-interest: I’m half Cantonese; children speak Cantonese, Mandarin, English and another foreign language. There is no question of being linguistically “Chinese” chauvinistic. Nothing in your arguments is unanticipated. English being a common medium of communication is well recognized. As Peter Lok, former aviation head noted, English is spoken in Airbus Industrie.
Proportionality is the issue.
The colonial practice of segregated language education is disgusting and should be criminalized.
pslhk Feb 22nd 2013
What's in a name?
At wit's end, piteously name calling is your last trick
I don't feel your hate-the-white-man feeling in Pierce Lam's letter
which is certainly your own
I do recognize that he despises dumb and loud trash regardless of color; and of course, white trash sympathises with white trash
It seems to be universally true that illiterate, boorish and hateful people won't get along with literate ones, let alone calmly discuss something of consequence.
Given your hatred of Chinese, why do you want to live among these disgusting people? My advice is that before you could do a lot of harm to others and yourself, you should check into a psychiatric ward as soon as possible.
"Expatriates, and I have to listen to them, constantly confide that the local eduaction system is rubbish - this is pure racism and then go on to complain that the Governent doesn't do enough to give their little Johnny a good education."
Were children of these expats you're talking about to attend a competitive local school like St. Joseph's or St Paul's, their fragile self-esteem would be likely the first casualty. Just imagine, supercilious folks who constantly mock Chinese children learning by rote now witness their own wearing dunce caps in an algebra class.
dynamco and likes,
Please point out where / what are the “racist comments” you blindly attribute to Mr Lam
Failing to support malicious allegation with evidence,
your accusation is libelous and ad hominine
reflecting racism entirely of your own
unicef CRC (Article 2) prohibits the kind of language discrimination which ESF shamelessly flaunts in it admission policy. It also excludes privileged education based on the racist practice of implementing two systems of English schools, one for Cantonese –speakers and one for all others. ECHR’s decision on the Belgian case confirms this provision.
Expatriates should be grateful for the chance to enjoy HK benefits
at the low cost of local tax, and not expensive global tax

Posting on behalf of reader pslhk:
SCMP has deleted the comment which dynamco posted in 5:55 because it maliciously fabricated personal information about my son for prejudicial disclosure.
I reserve the rights to take further actions against dynamco for privacy invasion and posting fabricated disinformation.
My son never applied to any ESF or international schools. A successful engineer and award winning pianist, active in snowboarding and kayaking, he visited Bosnia twice and hosted four Bosnia high school students in a leadership program in the US. He studied Japanese in high school and university.
I have no grudge against German Swiss School which I hold in high esteem although it rejected the Form 6 application of my elder daughter who later graduated with a BS from U.C. Berkeley. She studied French in Hong Kong and in Geneva.
I did consider ESF as an option for my youngest daughter. After discussion with Jennifer Whisker, the former ceo of ESF, I never returned the application she gave me. Although accepted by a top international school, she stayed with an elite local school till matriculation. Recently she got a distinguished scholarship from Washington DC.
None of my children ever applied to any ESF school.
There is no PERSONALIZED resolution
to ESF, a politi-econo-cultural issue
which uneducated colonial knights evade,
deploying ad hominem diversions
If that’s all they could muster
the end is clearly near
Let’s watch ESF’s dying act
Overtaken by history,
would this colonial entity exeunt
with grace or malice
Among the major tasks of the Ed Bureau during Mrs Law’s tenure
were withdrawing aids to ESF and improving teaching quality of local schools
I’d focus my appraisal on officials' policies and not their personal activities
What’s wrong being human and social on a personal level
as long as it doesn’t detract from moral official objectives
Read Mrs Law’s SIS speech clearly
It’s writing on ESF’s wall
Neither I nor most other opponents of ESF
would generalize its students / staff as a category to despise;
they laugh and love and cry like everyone else
only morally misled by colonial circumstances they find themselves
Given ESF schools’ so-called 5-star hotel like environments
they could afford being naively positive and chummy
ESF should consider adult education in statistics for resallen
who repeatedly flaunts her math ignorance
I’d no time to play with her simple-minded data –
70% resident, 44% Chinese, 21% Caucasians!
Are the 21% Caucasians part of the 30% non-residents?
My Feb22 comment disappeared after posting.,Great retrieval:
colonial practice of segregated language education ... should be criminalized
Andrew Nunn (01MAR)
“I share (Pierce LAM’s) view that the practice of offering two segregated systems of subsidised English-medium education - one for Chinese and the other for non-Chinese - is long out of date and no longer relevant in post-colonial Hong Kong.”
bmr (01mar)
really it comes down to racism and money…
This idea of heavily subsidizing foreign education is a major colonial hangover.
whymak (02 MAR)
Pierce Lam’s remark on education apartheid is most appropriate
* unicef CRC (Article 2) prohibits the kind of language discrimination which ESF shamelessly flaunts in it admission policy (01MAR)
* there should be no public subsidies for ESF schools until they comply with
a) HKBoR (Art 1) and unicef CRC (Art 2) prohibition against linguistic discrimination, and
b) the Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities requiring minorities to integrate with local community
thru the acquisition of the state language (02MAR)
* resallen is still evading the relevant and material statistics which I repeated in my (01MAR) comments that have disappeared from SCMP’s webpage. If I find them, I’d post them again on Monday. Not for resallen who is hopeless but for exposing again her bigotry.
enough social service
now ... personal time
You should republish more of Mr. LAM’s past expositions
I consider them fair and see no inconsistence across the years
Your purpose is to postulate a relation
Next you may look under bed
then the carpet and down the toilet
The malodor can only be from you because of your operations and prejudice
Won’t care less whether you’re an armchair archivist
and professional spy, or vise versa
But 2008, pslhk and PIERCE LAM ?
Cowards who dare not face facts and arguments
turn to focus on speakers and writers
Mr LAM should look you up
if he wishes to collate his past letters for an anthology
and invite HdQ to write a graceful preface
Without ESF’s perverse “international” model
the entire local community will be properly oriented
to become truly more international
I'm not particularly upset. We need to work towards a solution that is in the best interests of HK. Firstly we need to have some real information regarding the different numbers of students and then, if it is decided to fund international education, then this needs to be factored into the costs of a firm moving to HK and bringing its own worlkforce with them.
Firms set up overseas branches with the objective of making a profit. HK already has an ubelievably low corporate tax rate and if firms simply bring their own workforce, because amongst other things there is access to a cheap high quality subsidized education for the children, then this is denying opportunities for locals.
Firstly, though and even before we embark on the process of deciding what Hong Kong needs, the Government must provide demographic information about where we are now, so that we might be able to estimate where we will be in 20 years time (preferably don't ask the financial secretary to make these estimates),
Right, expats want to send their kids to easy schools where they won't be challenged. That must be why they're lining up to send the little ones to poor, failing schools.


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